Photo of the Week: Roller Coaster Emotions

If your character went on a roller coaster, what would their reaction be? Terrified, excited, anxious? Would your character sit in the middle, or on the end? Would they be comfortable going on the ride alone, with strangers filling the other seats? Or, are they more of a “pack” person, wanting to share the experience with friends? Would it matter to them?

Copyright © 2008 by Brittiany A. Koren

Look at the pool in the bottom right hand corner of this picture. Would your character be afraid to fall into the water? Or, are they an experienced swimmer? What kind of story ideas can you come up with by just looking at this picture? What types of noises do your hear? What kinds of smells? How does the hard metal of the ride feel around their bodies as they’re strapped inside for that one timeless minute?

Photo of the Week: Adding Texture

Take a hard look at this deer. What is it thinking? What direction will it go next? Or, will it stay still and listen a little longer?

Think of your main character in this sense. How will they react to danger? Fight or flight?

Look at this deer now in a different way, how the shade from the trees keep it in the shadows. It’s not a straight line, but staggered. Look how the grass in some places is green and other places dead. What does the grass feel and taste like? Is it soft, brittle? What season is it? What sounds are around the deer? What is making it listen so hard? Is someone watching it? Or something? What does it smell? Is it in danger, or safe?

Remember, using the five senses is very important in making your story come to life.

Writing Exercise: Would You Like To Be More Prolific?

Sure, I hear you saying, who wouldn’t?  But how do I end up with more writing than I’ve had in the past?

The answer is easy and obvious: Write more.

Ha! you say.  I’m writing as much as I possibly can now.  How can I ever find time to do more?

Time isn’t the issue.  What you’re working on is.

Consider this project for 2013.  It can comprise your “writing time,” or it can make up your “I want to be a better writer” time.  Or it can be both!

Here’s what you do:  Write one story every week of the year.  Yes, seriously, a story a week.  But wait, I say to myself, what about this last week—the last week of break? When your daughter was sick? And you started exercising seriously again?  And you tried to finish up all those around the house projects you swore you’d do before the new semester?  How could I ever have written a complete story last week?

Clearly, discipline will have to be involved.  But the rules are very flexible—in a busy week, perhaps you write a piece of flash fiction in an hour.  During a more relaxed week, perhaps a fifteen page story with an actual outline.  These stories aren’t about perfection; don’t worry too much about making every sentence polished and beautiful.  These stories are about learning your craft and giving yourself material with which to work in the future.

There are three big benefits to taking on this project:  first, making yourself write a story a week exercises your writing muscles; after a month, you’ll be seeing story possibilities every time you turn around.  Second, exercising the discipline to get something complete down on the page every week will help that old saying about success being 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration become crystal clear.  Finally, at the end of the year, you’ll have fifty two stories to work with—and how wonderful is that!

Naming Characters

E. Tip of the Week:

A name is a great way to add more depth/backstory to a character’s background. Usually when an author uses a name of foreign origin, there’s a reason and a backstory that goes with it. For instance, using the name Nikita: perhaps Nikita’s family roots are Slavic and her mother wanted her to have a traditional Slavic name even though her family lives in the U.S. To learn more about her family roots and the meaning of her name, Nikita might explore the region where her ancestors once lived. This could be a journey she might not otherwise take, but because of her name’s origin, she’s curious.

Another way to add more depth to your character is by making their name an unusual spelling. My parents named me Brittiany, with an extra “i” in there. I have a few theories why my mother spelled my name differently–one of them being she just wanted my name to be special.

However, using a different spelling can sometimes lead to confusion with your readers. They may not know how to pronounce the name in their head, and could stumble upon it, taking them out of the story. So, be very cautious when using an unusual spelling. A lot of people pronounce my name Brit-ti-a-nee because of that extra ‘i’. It’s just Brit-nee.

I get questions like “Did you realize there’s an extra ‘i’ in your name?” all the time. “Yes,” I tell them. “I’m aware, and thank you for spelling my name correctly.” I’ve yet to meet someone with the exact spelling of my name.

But a unique name can be a great ice-breaker. I love the story I can share with people when I meet them for the first time, and they ask me about my name. 🙂

To find a unique character name, go to a baby names website, or get a few baby names books from the library. Find a name that has the meaning of what you’re trying to portray for the character. You might be surprised at what you find. Good luck!

Creating Characters Not Like You

Every Monday, writers can now look forward to starting their writing week right with an inspirational writing exercise! We’re starting with something everyone is familiar with–character building. 🙂

1)     One problem many writers encounter is how to create characters that are significantly different from themselves.  Sure, the character may be a nineteenth century male archeologist excavating in Egypt, and the author a hometown girl who has never left the state she was born in, but does that character react like its creator when angry?  Frustrated?  Joyous?  Successful?  An exercise I’ve found helpful is to consider a specific situation or problem in my own life, write briefly about how I handled it, and then put my character in the same situation and consider how he or she would handle it, concentrating on the differences between us…and making sure there are some!   I often discover qualities and emotions I didn’t realize my character possessed doing this exercise. 

 

For example, I have a character who is an adolescent girl confronted with a very strange young man who, while not violent or overtly threatening, is either from another dimension or mentally disturbed.  As a fifteen year old in a similar situation, I was very polite, very shy, and very scared: how do I get out of here as quickly as possible without hurting anybody’s feelings?  My character is also scared, but feeling even slightly threatened leaves her confrontational and unconcerned with being polite, or with getting the heck out of there.  She is, for the moment, ready to stay and make her points clearly. 

When and how do you and your character react differently? How would your own character react?